Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I still feel bad for the amount of nothing I said

in a conversation with a friend who shall not be referred to by gender or initials last weekend. We were out to dinner on the last night this friend was in town and this friend was telling me a story that I felt they'd been working up to all weekend. 

It is not my intention, place, or desire to reveal the details of this story in this post or anywhere else, as it is, in fact, not my story to tell. The only relevant piece of information is that this story involved a person this kind of knew cuddling with and then inappropriately touching them while they were sleeping. Relevant to the rest of the conversation is that this is not the first time that has happened to this friend. 

I was very vocal about the THIS PERSON COMMITTED A CRIME and THIS WAS IN NO WAY YOUR FAULT and SILENCE IS NOT CONSENT ESPECIALLY IF YOU'RE NOT FUCKING CONSCIOUS parts of the conversation. These things were immediately crystal clear. I made my friend repeat after me in more than one instance, if I recall, so that I could be sure that my friend had internalized them. 

Where I began to falter, and falter hard, however, is when it came to the question of how to prevent this from happening to my friend again. I certainly wasn't going to suggest anything along the lines of my friend shouldn't drink so much or sleep over in the company of people they don't know so well or any other victim-blaming bullshit, and I did not allow my friend to suggest them either. That is NOT the answer. But what is? "Teaching enthusiastic consent," right? But what does that mean for the women (and men because let's not forget that sexual harrassment is gender-indiscriminate) right now while we're somehow still getting the word out? 

I have yet to come up with a satisfactory response to this question, and that terrifies me. "You didn't bring this on yourself" loses all levels of comfort-bringing when coupled with "and there's nothing you can do to be true and fair to yourself and stop it." So much of my friend's confessions and fears fell on what must have looked like deaf ears, but I had and have no answers for my friend, for myself, for anyone out there in a world where defenselessness translates to consent in anyone's mind. At the same time, this can't just be something we have to live with, a price we pay for leading active social lives, a risk we run when we let our guard down in places that are supposed to be safe. We cannot accept the limitation that nowhere is safe. We cannot accept the burden of keeping our guards up all the time. We do not wish to never be touched. We are sex-positive. We like sex. We just demand that it be on our terms...which, again, we need to be conscious and not blacked-out to agree to.

How do we stop predators from preying? Why can I devise exactly zero immediately applicable to real life and non-victim-blaming strategies?  

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